Monday, November 5, 2012

GUEST: Robert Bevan

Guest Poster: Robert Bevan

On: Writing What You Want To Read,Self-Confidence, and 

Taking Criticism.

Warning: Guest poster cussage. 

So I was telling my good friend, beta partner, and author of the comic fantasy Critical Failures, Robert Bevan, that he should write a guest post for my writery blog. Now, let me infodump a mo here. Bobby and I have been friends for... a year now? Seems like more than a year. A few days ago, I was remembering how we first met and realized that beginning had a valuable message. So I said to Bobby, "Bobby, how did it feel when you first had the idea for CF?" 

Robert Bevan:
I first had the idea for Critical Failures while I was getting toward the end of an entirely unrelated novel that wasn't really falling into place like I thought it would. 

The climactic scene I was writing involved my characters being forced to act stupid in order for my own clever ideas to be implemented (hint: don't do that). And then I had a bunch of boring backstory I still had to dump on the reader in a Scooby-Doo-esque explanatory ending in order for a lot of things in the book to make sense in retrospect (hint: don't do that).

But I'd gotten that far, and I'd be damned if I was going to just abandon it unfinished to start up something new. If I let myself get away with that, I might never finish anything. So I rushed through a shitty ending and then abandoned it so I could start on the then yet-to-be-titled Critical Failures.

The bare-bones premise actually sounds kind of lame when I tell other people about it. A group of guys get transported into the world of their fantasy roleplaying game. For every person who was intrigued by that last sentence, another six people just went back to watching porn.

I got the same reaction when I told people what I was writing while I was writing it. "That sounds a lot like the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon," they'd say. Yeah? Well it's nothing fucking like that.

So what do you do when you tell people about what you're writing and their eyes glaze over, or they actually come right out and criticize your idea. ("That's been done before." "So you're just writing out your D&D adventure?" "Stop licking me.") First and foremost, you should be doing more writing and less talking about it.

But you're excited about it, and writing a novel is a hard, lonely road. I get that. Sometimes you're going to want to talk about it.

So what do you do about the people who are obviously faking enthusiasm until they can find an escape from the conversation? You learn to pick up on that and then try to help them find their exit. They don't want to listen to you, and so you're not going to get anything useful out of them.

Hopefully you'll run into some people who are genuinely excited by your idea and gush about it. You don't really need advice for that; you know exactly what to do. Bask in that shit.

That leaves you with the people who are paying attention, but just aren't too keen on the idea for whatever reason... hopefully a reason which they will share with you. People who are willing to give you legitimate criticism, be it for your idea about your book, or any aspect of your life, are well worth listening to... at least initially. Take the criticism graciously, consider it thoroughly, and either accept or reject it.

For example, rejecting most of the initial criticism for my book's premise was easy, because I knew why people were criticizing it, and I knew that they were wrong in their preconceptions of what it was going to be. They fell mainly into two camps. People who thought I was trying to rewrite the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, and people who thought I was simply narrating the D&D adventure that I was currently playing with my friends. I was doing neither of these things. 

But don't let seemingly easy rejections go entirely unexplored. Rejecting Joan's advice to change the POV on my completed first draft manuscript from omni to limited third person seemed like a no-brainer. First of all, I thought it sounded just fine as it was. Secondly, fuck no! That's a shit ton of work to do. But she talked me into it, and it was, of course, the right thing to do.

And hell, even if your idea is lame, keep writing it anyway... at least until an idea comes along that you're absolutely one hundred percent certain you want to abandon your current project for. Writing something shitty is better than writing nothing. You've got to pound out some shit before you write something good anyway. Also, when you're typing through your lame shitty idea, you might be surprised at how often your characters will take the wheel and do something entirely unexpected and cool. In the end, you might find you have something worth salvaging. 

Keep writing.

Thank you, Mr. Bevan. -J

Robert Bevan can be contacted via Twitter and Facebook. His books and short stories can be found on Amazon.

Critical Failures  
"Cave of the Kobolds"

Next week: "In-spuh-ray-shun."


  1. I love the idea. I did a Neverwinter Nights module on the premise of someone going from this world into a fantasy world. Yours is a great concept. I love the idea of Gamers in their own fantasy world. :)

    Have you watched the movie, "The Gamers", by Dead Gentlemen? It's fricken hilarious.

    1. john h. carroll... you're the "drippy" guy, right? you fucking rock, dude. thanks a bunch! joan just tipped me off to drippy yesterday. as soon as i get some time to read, i'm going to check out your other stuff.

      yeah, and "the gamers" was great. did you see "the gamers 2"?

    2. I did. I didn't think it quite as funny as the first, but it was much better made. I love the bard dude. That was awesome.

    3. I really want to read this now. Totally on my Christmas list!